Families First Coronavirus Response Act
U.S. Capitol
March 16, 2020

A new federal coronavirus response bill, passed in the House of Representatives in the wee hours March 14 has provided a number of new measures to assist with responding to the coronavirus. These measures, pending approval this week by both the US Senate and President Trump.

Among other critical items such as free coronavirus testing, protections for healthcare workers and food assistance, for employers the critical components are:

FMLA Change

The Federal FMLA has been amended (through December 31, 2020) and is being referred to as the “Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act”.

Definition of covered employer

Covered employers have now been amended from employers with at least 50 employees to employers with fewer than 500 employees – thus all employers with fewer than 500 employees are now covered under the federal FMLA through the end of this year.

Eligible employee

This has been amended to all employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days.

Definition of parent

The term parent, with respect to an employee has been amended to now include:

  • Biological, foster or adoptive parent
  • Stepparent
  • Parent-in-law
  • Parent of a domestic partner
  • A legal guardian or other person who stood in loco parentis to an employee when the employee was a child.

Definition of qualifying need

This definition has been amended to read – a “qualifying need relating to a public health emergency”, with respect to leave. An employee has a need for leave for one of the following:

  1. To comply with a recommendation or order by a public official having jurisdiction or a health care provider on the basis that leave is for one of the following:
    • The physical presence of the employee on the job would jeopardize the health of others because of:
      • The exposure of the employee to coronavirus; or
      • Exhibition of symptoms of coronavirus by the employee; and
      • The employee is unable to both perform the functions of the position of such employee and comply with such recommendation or order.
  2. To care for a family member of an eligible employee with respect to whom a public official having jurisdiction or a health care provider makes a determination that the presence of the family member in the community would jeopardize the health of other individuals in the community because of:
    • The exposure of such family member to coronavirus; or
    • The exhibition of symptoms of coronavirus by such family member.
  3. To care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency.

Paid FMLA Leave

For eligible employees who have been tested positive for coronavirus, or who is caring for a dependent who has tested positive for coronavirus, the eligible employee can receive two-thirds of their average monthly earnings to a maximum of $4,000, for up to 12 weeks. The benefits can be paid retroactively and will be available for those who had to leave work starting January 19.

Paid emergency sick leave – covered employers with less than 500 employees

This new act establishes a new paid sick leave program which gives to eligible employees up to 14 days of paid sick leave that can be used by infected people, caretakers and parents whose children’s schools have been closed. Small businesses, with 50 employees or less, will be reimbursed for providing the 14 days of additional paid sick leave.

Unemployment Benefits

Additional unemployment benefits will be provided to the states by the federal government.

As I mentioned, the Senate is likely to take this bill up during the week, and President Trump is likely to sign it. Stay tuned for changes and further updates on this bill, and its approval and implementation.

Nick Daukas

Nick Daukas


With 30+ years of HR experience Nick specializes in ER, OD, Recruitment and Legal Compliance. He has an MBA and holds advanced HR certifications SPHR, SHRM-SCP.


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